My flight to Istanbul recently was actually my first time flying with Emirates, and surprisingly, it was also my first time visiting Dubai for real. Back when I worked as a flight attendant, I flew to Dubai a few times but it was never with a layover due to the short distance between United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
So in this post, I’m going to write about my experience of having a red-eye hour flight with Emirates and spending a few hours for layovers in Dubai after midnight.
My flight was changed by the Emirates a couple of times since I booked the ticket earlier this year. As a result, my ETA in Dubai was slightly before midnight and I had to find out the best things to do around Dubai when almost everyone fell asleep.
Surprisingly, while there’s a lot of information about transit in Dubai, I barely found anything about a layover in Dubai after midnight. So that’s why I’m trying to fill the gap by writing this post!
So, how was my first flight with Emirates and what could you do in Dubai for your midnight layover? Here we go! 🙂
CGK-IST Flight via Dubai with Emirates
Due to the changed schedule by Emirates, the transit time that was supposed to be only 7 hours also changed, and I had 11++ hours to spend for a layover in Dubai after midnight.
My flight to Dubai that was supposed to depart midnight Indonesian time, it was changed to the evening flight with ETD around 17.45. It was on time, as we flew with Boeing 777 from Jakarta airport (CGK) to Dubai airport (DXB).
Our arrival was scheduled some time after 11 PM Dubai time, but we arrived early that I had already landed in Dubai at around 10 PM. That was quite convenient as it allowed me to visit some spots that I wasn’t planning to do in my Dubai tour.
Now, let’s talk more about the flight, shall we?!
Flying with Emirates
Since I read the other day that there was this regulation that has to limit the number of passengers for an international flight, I thought that the regulation was still valid and there would be a social distancing in between seats during the flight.
But as it turned out, there was none although I was lucky enough to get the seat row all by myself when we flew to Dubai, and the middle seat was empty when we flew from Dubai to Istanbul.
While I flew with Boeing 777 for the flight to Dubai from Jakarta, I got a chance to fly with Emirates’ Airbus 380 fleet on the flight from Dubai to Istanbul. I kinda expected that I would notice the difference since it was a jumbo aircraft, but I actually didn’t. 😐
If anything, the flight from Dubai to Istanbul was almost full that I enjoyed my flight to Dubai from Jakarta better.
Flight Meals with Emirates
I’m not one for flight meals. Honestly, if I could just grab Happy Meals for me to eat during the flight, I would.
However, I decided to just get along with it and experience the onboard meals with Emirates to see if it’s as bad as I thought it would. Well, I stand with my opinion because it wasn’t really that fantastic.
I chose chicken for the hot meals served from Jakarta, and fish for the flight to Istanbul. The latter was quite fancy since it was salmon, but taste-wise, I’m not exactly a fan.
But then again, even since my flying time, I’ve never been into on-flight meals because they taste too oven-y. If that’s a word. LOL.
However, now that I tried hot meals from a few airlines, some airlines actually serve quite decent meals onboard. These include Qatar Airways, Srilanka Airlines, and also AirAsia if you pre-book your meals for the flight.
In-Flight Entertainment on Emirates Flight
Last but not least, it’s in-flight entertainment!
I know some people consider this as a make-or-break for a long-haul flight, and I think Emirates nail this one. Their IFE system is quite advanced, with a lot of options from Hollywood to even local movies or music. It was quite convenient!
The only downside for their IFE is that sometimes when I play a movie, it took so long until I actually got to the movie because of the commercial. But other than that, it works well and I’ve got nothing to complain!
In addition to that, if you need to get connected during the flight, they also provide wifi connection onboard for around $6 USD. I didn’t use it, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it.
Bonus point if you’re a football fan like me, given the idea Emirates has sponsored a lot of big football clubs, you can also find some short clips from your favorite team if they’re sponsored by Emirates.
Since I’m a gooner, I was a bit hooked with some videos about Arsenal during the flight as well.
Midnight Layover in Dubai
When I got an email that my flight had been rescheduled and now I had 11++ hours to spend in Dubai in between flights, I reached out to Emirates via Facebook to see if I was eligible for their Dubai Connects benefits. And apparently, I wasn’t, so I had to arrange the DIY activities during my transit in Dubai.
I was actually a bit anxious at the time, because as an Indonesian with a regular passport, it means that I also had to arrange my visa and everything to leave the airport. But I’m glad that I decided to give it a shot.
How to Apply 48-Hour Visa in Dubai
As an Indonesian, I’ve got two options to apply visa for my layover in Dubai. The first is directly through Emirates website, and the other is through the VFS Global service in Jakarta.
Since I live in Bandung, I wasn’t really planning to go to Jakarta prior to my departure. And certainly I didn’t have time to spare for a visa application. So I sent them an email to see if I could apply for the visa online through VFS Global.
They didn’t respond to my email for a few days, so I decided to figure out some ways to apply for the visa elsewhere. And then, I applied for my 48-hour visa to Dubai via Emirates website instead.
Applying 48-Hour Visa in Dubai via Emirates Website
Honestly, it took me a while until I found the section where I could apply for visa online on Emirates website.
I reached out to Emirates customer service via Facebook to see where I could find it, and they kept telling me that it was there on “Manage My Booking” page. I suppose I opened the page for a few times until I finally found the box where I could apply for the visa online.
I had to scroll deep enough to find this section in particular. That’s when I realized that maybe Emirates doesn’t really have a good UI/UX on their website. But once I found it, the process was quite straightforward.
Some supporting documents that I had to prepare to apply for the visa include a copy of my passport (the front and back page), my flight ticket, and also the valid visa to Turkey as that’s where we headed from UAE.
There are a few other visa types that you can apply online from there, but since I only had 11-hour layover in Dubai, I picked the 48-hour visa in Dubai instead.
After uploading all the required documents, I paid $20 USD for the visa application using my card and it wasn’t long until I got an email to inform me that my visa application had been granted.
I think the whole process only took around 2 (two) days in total.
Applying 48-Hour Visa in Dubai via VFS Global in Jakarta
Okay, so on VFS Global website, they said that I had to book an appointment at their office in Kuningan due to the daily limit of passengers during Covid-19. So that’s for me to collect all the required documents for the visa application.
But as I said before, I live in Bandung and I didn’t have time to go to Jakarta just to collect all the necessary documents, in which it wasn’t even guaranteed to be approved. So, I sent them an email to ask if it was possible for me to apply for it online.
As it turned out, just one day after I got the confirmation email that my visa to Dubai had been granted, I finally got a response from VFS Global in Jakarta saying that I could actually apply for the visa via email to their address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even so, the price for visa application through VFS Jakarta is much cheaper than if you apply for it via Emirates website. For context, as I applied for my 48-hour visa in Dubai and paid $20 USD via Emirates website, VFS Global Jakarta charges IDR 154,000 (around $11 USD) for the processing fee.
I already asked if I could apply for it on my return flight from Istanbul, and they said that I could so it’s convenient!
The only thing that you should take note is that they don’t respond to email so fast, so it’s not recommended if you’re planning to apply for an express visa.
Dubai Private Tour After Midnight with Walk With Master Rafiq
Since it was my first time visiting Dubai, and I had another flight to catch afterward, I was a bit anxious to plan out a DIY trip for this. That’s when I decided to find a customizable tour during my midnight layover in Dubai.
The main reason was more like because I arrived after midnight, and I’d rather arrange a private tour with a car to ensure that I could go back to the airport on time. That’s when I connected with Rafiq via a Facebook group.
I shared the list of places that I found on the internet about the spots to visit in Dubai after midnight, and then he arranged it and gave me a quote. I paid $164 USD or 650 AED, including the car rent, tour guide, and complimentary beverages during the tour.
What I loved about the tour with Walk With Master Rafiq was how laidback and customizable the tour was, and how knowledgeable Rafiq is as a tour guide.
So, what did I do during my midnight layover in Dubai?
1. Pick-up at Dubai International Airport.
Despite telling Rafiq that I’d arrive after midnight with immigration stuff and all, when my flight arrived early, I texted Rafiq straight away and to my surprise, he picked me up as soon as I arrived.
I probably only had to wait for around 30 minutes until he arrived and waited for me at the arrival gate.
2. Abra rides across Dubai Creek.
If I gotta be honest, this is the activity that I enjoyed the most during my layover in Dubai. Abra is a traditional half-boat and half-raft transport that would take you to cruise around Dubai Creek.
Dubai Creek is stretched, dividing Deira and Bur Dubai. Crossing one side to another with abra enables you to enjoy the city’s charm at night. The ride kinda reminds me of riding a boat through Kampong Ayer in Brunei, but I think it’s more unique given that the view I got in Dubai is more like Middle Eastern architecture.
My flight was on November 17, and I don’t know the weather in Dubai during another time of the year, but the weather was perfect when I was there. It was pretty chill and not too windy, making it so convenient to enjoy the old town at its finest.
3. Strolling around the old souk in Dubai.
You may not get the authentic experience of getting approached by sellers trying to sell you stuff at the market, but strolling around the old souk at midnight when all the shops were closed was also quite enjoyable.
For me, given the idea I’m no longer into shopping these days when I travel, I suppose strolling around the souk at midnight is something that I would enjoy more than doing it during the daytime. Again, I’ve never been there during the day, so who knows?!
Although almost all the shops are closed, there are still some kiosks open. Rafiq and I stopped at one kiosk to buy some water and orange juice, and it was super delicious to drink while strolling around the Old Town!
4. Stop by Dubai Museum.
After strolling around the Old Souk, we stopped by Dubai Museum building even though obviously it’s closed. According to Rafiq, it’s also temporarily closed as the museum is currently under renovation.
I suppose it would be more terrific to understand the history of Dubai if you got a chance to visit the museum as it shows dioramas showing traditional life around Dubai back in the days.
Although I couldn’t enter the museum, I stopped by to take a photo around the entrance with two arsenals in between the main gate there.
5. Touching down the Modern Dubai through Dubai Frame.
Although I know that Burj Khalifa is basically the icon of Dubai, given the idea it is the tallest building in the world, we only passed through the building in the car and I didn’t even manage to take a picture of it either.
However, my experience to touch the modern side of Dubai began when we stopped by Dubai Frame. According to Rafiq, Dubai Frame was designed particularly in the area where it is now so that the frame can picture both the Old Town part of Dubai as well as the New Town of Dubai with its luxury and modernity.
I personally think it’s a really nice concept, and kudos to the city planner who made it happen! 🙂
6. Visiting Jumeirah Beach and Burj Al Arab.
If I gotta be honest, this is the spot where I started to get bored. But then again, I’m not exactly a city hopper. Andthis is exactly the reason why I’m not a fan of Singapore despite all the good things people say about the country.
And that’s exactly my impression when I reached the modern part of Dubai. Everything was so neat and luxurious, it got boring to me.
I expected something more around Jumeirah Beach, and I was like… Oh, just that? LOL.
And while I know Burj Al Arab is quite iconic with the architecture and everything, I could confirm that it was almost disappointing. Pretty much the kind of spot that I’m okay by visiting just once in my lifetime.
After taking the sight of Burj Al Arab from afar around Jumeirah Beach, we went to the main entrance. Apparently, they would turn off the light around the hotel building at 1 AM. So if you visit it anytime after 1 AM, chances are you won’t be able to get the picture of it full of lights.
7. Making a stop at Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
The way I see it, Souk Madinat Jumeirah is basically the Old Souk 2.0. They mimic the layout of the Old Souk, but I suppose they sell more high-end stuff with the indoor building that feels like the hybrid of an old souk and a mall.
Again, the shops are already closed during midnight but you can still stroll around with a chance to get the view of Burj Al Arab from behind.
I would say, that is probably the best view of Burj Al Arab that I got, especially since the hotel building is surrounded by other luxurious hotels around it.
8. Wrapping it up with Dubai Marina.
The last spot that I visited before heading back to the airport was Dubai Marina area. It was split between Dubai Marina Mall, and the marina where the riches park their yachts there. There were also some cafes, restaurants, and hookah places around the latter if you’re in the mood to stop by.
As for Dubai Marina Mall, apparently there is this record-winning fountain show that has been claimed as the largest in the world. Obviously, it was closed when I was there around 2 o’clock in the morning. But I imagine this show would be something similar to the KLCC fountain show but bigger, or maybe something like Tsim Sha Tsui light show. Something that sounds hype, but I’d end up disappointed when I experience it myself. LOL.
Around the marina, there’s this nice promenade where you can walk around looking at the yachts parked around there, surrounded by nice-looking skyscrapers around them.
There are also some nice spots for photographs if you’re looking into adding up your photo dumps in Dubai.
Final Verdict: Flying with Emirates & Midnight Layover in Dubai
If I gotta be really honest, I could actually pass Dubai if it wasn’t because it was my first time there.
My next layover in Dubai, I second-guessed whether I should extend my transit time because I’m under the impression that Dubai is really a place that I could just pass without any regret. Sure, maybe I should consider going to Dubai Expo since it’s still there by the time I head back home, but it seems the venue is quite far from the city center. So we’ll see.
However, given the idea that Emirates has connecting flights all over the world, it’s really worth the journey for sure.
As for the private tour, while I enjoyed my time during the private tour with Walk With Master Rafiq and their hospitality was really on point, I started wondering whether it would be cheaper if I rented a taxi through apps like Uber or Careem instead.
Nonetheless, joining the private tour really saved my time and energy to explore Dubai in the limited time I had there. I think I’m quite satisfied with the midnight journey around Dubai on my last flight with Emirates.
For those of you who are interested in joining a customized private tour with Rafiq, feel free to connect with him through their social media channels below.
Do you have any other suggestions to visit Dubai after midnight? Or do you have a different experience during your layover in the daytime? Share your experience in the comment, and cheerio! 😉
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry, but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017 and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.
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